Understanding Maine DEEP

The Driver Evaluation and Education Program (DEEP) is a requirement prior to reinstatement for people whose license has been suspended for an alcohol or drug related motor vehicle offense.  Typically, The DEEP is a three-part program.

Part One – 20 hour Risk Reduction Program which is the education component of DEEP.  The focus of the education portion is on high-risk alcohol and drug choices. The cost for the Risk Reduction Program is $300.00.  This typically takes place over the weekend, and is offered in many locations throughout the state.

Part Two – Most likely, after completing part one (education), participants will be referred to a DEEP-certified service provider to receive a clinical substance abuse evaluation.

Part Three – If a substance abuse issue is detected at the above-mentioned evaluation, the individual will be referred to counseling, which is required in order to satisfy the Maine DEEP requirements.

If your license has been suspended as a result of a charge or conviction for Operating Under the Influence, it will be a requirement that you complete DEEP (and pay a $50.00 reinstatement fee) before your license can be reinstated.

Typically, it is best to start the Maine DEEP as soon as practical after being charged with Operating Under the Influence.  For example, on a first offense OUI, an individual is eligible for an Ignition Interlock Device after 30 days of the suspension has been served, and the individual has completed DEEP and paid the reinstatement fee.

If you’ve been charged with a driving offense, such as Operating Under the Influence or Driving to Endanger, contact Attorney Eric Thistle today.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general information about Maine law. The publication of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.

Am I Required to Take the Breathalyzer?

Under Maine law, if there is probable cause to believe a person has operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants, that person shall submit to and complete a test.  19-A §2521.  Typically, a law enforcement officer will ask a person to submit to a breath test, unless the breath test is unreasonable, in which case they may request a blood test.

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If a driver refuses to submit to a test, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) has authority to suspect your license immediately, without a hearing.  Usually, this automatic suspension of your license is for 275 days (for a first refusal), 18 months (for a second refusal), 4 years (for a third refusal), or 6 years (for a fourth refusal).  If a driver refuses to take the test, the suspension from the BMV will run consecutive to the suspension imposed by the court, if the driver is eventually found guilty of Operating Under the Influence.

In addition to the increased BMV suspensions, the Court will also impose harsher penalties for refusing to submit to a test. For example, on a first offense OUI with a refusal, the mandatory minimum punishment requires 96 hours in jail, a $600.00 fine, and a 150-day loss of license. Without the refusal, the mandatory minimum would be a $500.00 fine and 150-day loss of license.

It is a common misconception that the State needs a breath test over .08 to convict a driver of Operating Under the influence.  In reality, the State can prove the crime of Operating Under the Influence simply by proving that the driver’s “mental or physical faculties are impaired however slightly, or to any extent. State v. Worster, 611 A.2d 979 (Me. 1992).

There are many ways to challenge the charge of Operating Under the Influence.  An experienced OUI attorney can attempt to suppress the initial motor vehicle stop, challenge the accuracy of the breath test, or argue that the testing officer did not follow proper protocol, just to name a few.  Call Attorney Eric Thistle today for a free consultation.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general information about Maine law. The publication of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.

Not Guilty Verdict – Gross Sexual Assault (Class B Felony)

Recently, Attorney Thistle and Attorney Winling received a Not Guilty verdict for their client on the charge of Gross Sexual Assault (Class B) in the York County Superior Court, in Alfred, Maine.

The client, a gentleman from Portland, Maine, was accused of engaging in a sexual act with a woman while she was unconscious or otherwise physically incapable, and who had not consented to the sexual act.

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There are many ways to charge Gross Sexual Assault under the Maine statute (17-A §253).  In this particular case, the State’s prosecutor specifically chose to allege that the woman was unconscious or otherwise physically incapable of resisting the sexual act.

Attorney Thistle and Attorney Winling were able to elicit testimony on cross examination from the woman which directly contradicted what she told the officers who responded to her original 911 call.  Once it was established that she had made inconsistent statements, the attorneys for the defendant were able to further impeach her credibility, and ultimately get the woman to say that she no longer remembered important details of the event.  Through the effective use of cross examination, the defense was able to later argue that the woman’s story did not make sense, and that it was more probable that she had consented to the sexual act (through her actions).

In all criminal proceedings, the Defendant always has the presumption of innocence until the State over comes that presumption.  To overcome the presumption, the State must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that every element of the crime was committed.

If you, or someone you know, has been charged with a crime, you are presumed innocent.  Even if you feel as though you are guilty, the State may not be able to prove it.  Before you plead guilty, or admit, to any crime, contact Attorney Eric Thistle for a free consultation.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general information about Maine law. The publication of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.

What is Hearsay?

Hearsay is a statement made by someone out of court, which is then used in court, to prove what was said in the statement.

For a more technical definition, see Rule 801(c) of the Maine Rules of Evidence, which says, “Hearsay means a statement that: (1) The declarant does not make while testifying at the current trial or hearing; and (2) A party offer in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.”

Generally, hearsay is not allowed to be introduced into evidence pursuant to Rule 802 of the Maine Rules of Evidence.  However, there are many exceptions to this rule. The exceptions can be found ­here­ in Rules 801(d), 803, and 804.

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What is an Arraignment?

Your arraignment is the first court appearance on a misdemeanor criminal charge.  In Maine, misdemeanors are classified as Class D and E crimes.

At this point you have been charged with a crime, but are presumed innocent. At your arraignment you will be required to watch a video explaining all of your rights. The judge will likely ask you if you understand your rights before he or she excepts your plea.  You have a variety of important rights, and it’s important that you watch the video to fully understand these rights. If you have any questions, please make sure you consult a qualified Maine criminal defense attorney before entering a plea.

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Understanding Probation in Maine

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Not all criminal convictions are eligible for probation under Maine criminal law. 17-A§1201(1).  Generally, there are caps on the maximum amount of time a person may be on probation for any given conviction, however, the legislature has carved out exceptions for certain serious crimes. 17-A §1201(2).

When a person is on probation in Maine, the judge may impose certain conditions that they believe will help the probationer lead a law-abiding life. 17-A §1204.  Every person on probation will have a condition that they refrain from committing new criminal conduct. Id. The court will also require a monthly payment between $10.00 and $50.00 be made to the Maine Department of Corrections. Id. In addition to the aforementioned required conditions, the court also has discretion in order many other conditions.  Probation is not appropriate for everyone, make sure you are fully aware of all of the conditions before signing any document agreeing to be placed on probation. It is wise to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney prior to voluntarily commencing any term of probation.

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I Got An OUI – What Do I Do Now?

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Being charged with the crime of Operating Under the Influence (OUI) can leave people feeling scared, embarrassed, and unsure of what to do next.

First, if you have not already done so, respectfully assert your right to remain silent.  Depending on your particular circumstances, it may be too late. However, if the police have any follow up questions, it is wise to decline to speak with them.

In Maine, Operating Under the Influence is a very serious charge.  Being a primarily rural state, we all rely heavily on our license and personal vehicles.  The Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will likely be sending you a suspension letter shortly after you have been charged with OUI.  Make sure you confirm with them that your current address matches the address on file.  You can be charged with additional crimes if you are found to be operating a vehicle while having a suspended license, even if you did not receive notice that your license was suspended.  It is your responsibility to confirm that the BMV is sending mail to the correct address.

At some point you need to decide whether you are going to (1) hire an attorney, (2) apply for an unknown attorney appointed by the court, or (3) defend yourself.  It goes without saying, but people who defend themselves are at a severe disadvantage.  The State’s prosecutor is an experienced attorney, who wants to get a conviction, a fine, and possibly put you in jail. It is highly recommended that you hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer with specific expertise defending operating under the influence charges.

Interview multiple lawyers, and don’t be persuaded by fancy websites. Instead, ask about their recent experience with OUI cases. Ask if they’re familiar with the mandatory consequences from both the court and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Ask if they’ve won any OUI trials recently.  Or if they’ve had any recent criminal trials, at all. These are very important questions!Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 7.46.12 PM

The sooner you retain an attorney, the better chance you have at getting the results you desire. Attorney Eric Thistle regularly represents individuals that have been charged with Operating Under the Influence in York and Cumberland Counties.  Call today for a free consultation.


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Maine Parental Discipline Laws

With social norms changing by the day, are parents in Maine still allowed to discipline their children with physical force?

Under Maine law, the answer is yes, as long as it’s a “reasonable degree of force.”

Maine statute 17-A §106(1) states, “A parent, foster parent, guardian or other similar person responsible for the long term general care and welfare of a child is justified in using a reasonable degree of force against that child when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes it necessary to prevent or punish the child’s misconduct.”

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“Reasonable degree of force” is an objective standard. To constitute a reasonable degree of force, the physical force applied to the child may result in no more than transient discomfort or minor temporary marks on that child. M.R.S.A 17-A §106(2).

First, the parent or guardian needs to reasonably believe it necessary to use physical force.  A light spanking is much different than a slap across the face.  The reasonableness of the parent’s belief as to the necessity of force is measured by whether that belief grossly deviated from what a reasonable, prudent person would believe necessary under similar circumstances.  State v. York, 766 A.2d 570 (2001).

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Second, the force must only cause short-lived discomfort and minor temporary marks.  Again, a light spanking, as opposed to a slap across the face, will cause different degrees of pain and marks.  The parent must maintain reasonable control over the outcome or physical consequences to the child so that the force used is designed to prevent or punish misbehavior. Id.  Whether the marks and/or discomfort received by the child are minor and temporary is a very fact specific analysis.  Courts have found that bruising on the head that “lasted a ‘day or two’” and “miss[ing] school the following day” is enough for the State to prove that the force applied caused more than transient discomfort or minor temporary marks. State v. Treadway, 103 A. 3d 1026 (2014).

If you find yourself in a situation where you have been charged with Domestic Violence Assault, or Endangering the Welfare of a Child, don’t delay, contact Attorney Eric Thistle today for a free consultation.  The sooner an attorney is involved, the more likely you are to get the outcome you desire.

I’ve Been Charged With a Crime.  What is the Maximum Punishment?

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Class E Crime Maximum Penalty

180 Days in Jail

$1,000.00 fine

One year of probation

Class D Crime Maximum Penalty

364 Days in Jail

$2,000.00 fine

One year of probation

Class E and D crimes are misdemeanors.

Class C Crime Maximum Penalty

5 Years in Prison

5,000.00 fine

Two years of probation

Continue reading “I’ve Been Charged With a Crime.  What is the Maximum Punishment?”